CNH Industrial's technology brand Raven has begun to fill orders for the 2024 rollout of its new Raven Cart Automation product.
With the new product, Raven intends to make the marry-up between combine and grain cart a more efficient operation. When the grain cart driver is in range (about 229 feet) of the harvester, the driver syncs cart direction and speed with the combine's auger by way of a local radio communication.
Cart Automation will reduce or eliminate spillage, Raven said. Efficiency goes up, as the combine and tractor will no longer have to perform that "slow-down, speed up" dance. Once the cart is full, the tractor operator steers to disengage the sync and drive to the unload point.
Raven said Cart Automation can sync up to six grain-cart-and-combine systems in one operation.
PREPARING FOR TECHNOLOGY ON THE FARM
As Raven rolls out its new Raven Cart Automation, the company's North American sales director, Ben Voss, told DTN/Progressive Farmer that farm managers should consider the readiness of their operations to absorb and have a strategy to put to good use the ever-more-sophisticated levels of technology.
"If you don't have all the fundamentals right on your farm, autonomy becomes very difficult," he said. "You can't just put one autonomy product on one piece of equipment and then think everything's fine. There are changes to the farm's management systems that come into play."
It's a strategy Raven calls the "Path to Autonomy." Raven's strategy, which has five steps in all, is designed to help farmers prepare to absorb fully autonomous systems as they arrive. Stage 1 of Raven's Path to Autonomy is precision farming, systems like rate control that improve input efficiencies but generally operate independently from other systems. Stage 2 is coordinated optimization or, basically, connectivity; communications and coordination among pieces of machinery. Stage 3 is operator-assisted. It is a level of automation that gives operators basic levels of autonomous guidance, for example speed and direction. Stage 4 is supervised autonomy or driverless machines with in-field supervision. Stage 5 is full autonomy with no in-field operator or supervision.
"Farms and farmers should start thinking about how they document and digitize and then manage their information flows," Voss said. "We work with large custom applicators. They're (documenting) workflows; (they) document every step of a process and then manage it digitally."
"Workflow" is a broad term that covers logistics. But much more than logistics, workflows look at practices and results. How long does it take to move a combine, tractor or grain cart(s) to a field -- and then among fields? Is the field geo-mapped for boundaries and obstructions? What about securing fuel and fuel allocation? Ditto with other inputs. Or positioning grain carts as a function of harvest speed or yield. Time to fill a grain cart. Time to deliver that grain to the semi where it's positioned -- and deliver that to a drier. All this is complicated by mixed-equipment fleets with systems that may not want to talk with each other.
"You have to think through all these steps," Voss said. "We're talking (about) grain carts today. Imagine tillage, imagine seeding, imaging planting, spraying. Imagine the combine running autonomously. If you haven't taught the combine how to drive through a wet spot, you're gonna get a stuck combine."
As operators insert autonomy into all these functions, efficiency, or cost of production ought to improve, in theory, but dissecting workflows will be increasingly critical as "seat time" is replaced by mission planning.
And mission review.
"Once all this is done, did we create a map of everything we finished so that we can report that back to the (farmer manager)?" Voss said. "So, farmers that want to do autonomy have got to start with precision farming; you have to get your workflows established, then you can start automating your farm equipment."
CART AUTOMATION IS STEP 3
Raven Cart Automation is step 3 on the Path to Autonomy. It is not a fully autonomous system where the combine operator calls for the cart (or the combine itself calls for the cart as it nears full) and the cart moves to the side of the combine by way of an efficient path (automated path planning) that does not take it through a standing crop.
Raven has not put together a fully autonomous retrofit, autonomous grain cart system widely applicable to the Case IH or New Holland product line -- CNH's two ag machinery brands.
"That technology has been in the hands of customers and testing phase, and we continue to evolve it," said Voss. "Getting a kit that's easy to install and retrofittable is not that easy." For example, to control speed, the tractor shifts through its range of gears. A clutch-based transmission is hard to automate. Tractors with continuously variable transmissions (CVT) give the technology more viability.
"(But) we found that (customers) are looking for something incremental (on the way to) full autonomy. So, we're, we're trying to cover as many customers as we can with a simplified product, a relatively low-cost installation (about $10,000)."
The company is accepting pre-orders for Raven Cart Automation.
Dan Miller can be reached at email@example.com
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